Left a Path of Hope for Families
By Sonia Carruthers
Zombies, humans and other assorted creatures came out in droves to participate in the 2016 Georgia Zombie Fest and Food Truck Fair in historic downtown Canton on a warm October Saturday. In its fourth year, this family-friendly experience continues to grow in popularity with new visitors from around the state and the faithful who haven’t missed a year. This year, 8,000 people attended the fundraiser that is developed and coordinated by Cherokee FOCUS, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that has served youth, youth adults and their families for 15 years. The proceeds —$14,000 this year go directly to help Cherokee County residents.
A member of the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, the work of Cherokee FOCUS began by bringing community members together to focus efforts on important community issues that could not be accomplished by one agency or organization alone. Current programs and initiatives include Cherokee Youth Works, Drug Free Cherokee, Cherokee Youth Connection, Hotel to Home and VolunteerCherokee.com.
Cherokee FOCUS currently has 120 active young people between the ages of 16 and 24 in its Cherokee Youth Works (CYW) program. Participants of CYW have either dropped out of the traditional school setting or have graduated high school and are not in college and have not obtained the skills to get a job that would provide a livable wage. The staff, tutors and volunteers of CYW work on an individual level to develop a plan and set goals that will give each young man or young woman the best chance at becoming a strong, educated, employed, stable adult that gives back to their community. In order to meet these goals, FOCUS offers GED classes, college prep, life skills, work readiness classes and work experience opportunities, all at no cost to the student.
Drug Free Cherokee (DFC) is an initiative of Cherokee FOCUS that you might be familiar with through billboards, football stadium commercials or radio ads by their youth partner initiative the Cherokee Youth Council. The goal of the DFC coalition is to prevent our youth from falling prey to drugs and alcohol at an early age and educate both youth and adults on the physical and legal dangers of underage drinking and drug use. From tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and prescription pills, to the heroin epidemic, DFC partners are focused on protecting our youth from early onset of use, to the harmful outcomes that drug use can bring.
For more information on the many ways that Cherokee FOCUS is helping our community visit CherokeeFOCUS.org, and to volunteer email Sonia@Cherokeefocus.org or call 770-345-5483.